catch me if I let you

A senior credit manager once told me:  “Catch me once, shame on you, catch me twice, shame on me.”  Which may be fine in the world of relationships but for the consumer in this  information filled internet world the maxim should be:  “Catch me once, shame on me!”  Last week 2 incidents when I was almost caught and by “caught” I mean taken advantage of.

Ever since I rebuilt my Troy Bilt chipper shredder engine (model # 47330) in August 2013- see post on seized engine repair it has performed flawlessly.  Except that prior to the seizure the gas tank leaked when filled>50% and I solved this my keeping gas levels down until it began  leaking at the bottom where the fuel hose is and stank out the garage.  I did my research and the cheapest replacement for the same tank was $76 ouch! for a plastic 4 qt fuel tank!  But I bought it because fuel on your hands and vapor in the air is not good and complaints were mounting.  I could have cobbled something together with another fuel tank but didn’t want to mess with it.  That was the cheapest price new and it fitted perfectly and quickly and was done.  And I wasn’t caught – a vendor can charge whatever and the consumer can buy or not buy.

I was chipping the remains of a poplar tree – soft wood and easy going, and noticed the chipper was not as chipper (sorry – cheerful) as usual.  When using equipment, if something ails, I now  investigate early.  The drive belt had stretched with use and the top pulley was carving a hole through the cover creating a lot of heat and slowing the engine down.

at the top of the cover you can see the hole carved by the pulley
at the top of the cover you can see the hole carved by the pulley

Below is shown the arrangement of the pulleys.  The right pulley is the drive pulley connected to the engine, the left pulley turns the shredder/chipper mechanism and the top pulley is spring loaded and takes up the slack as the belt lengthens.

3 pulleys - the top, spring loaded pulley carved the hole in the cover
3 pulleys – the top, spring loaded pulley carved the hole in the cover

I input the model # and located the part # and googled it and found prices for a new 38″ belt ranging north of $25, delivered.  Seemed a lot for a belt?  So I googled some more and a helpful poster in response to a question on the belt, said Gates V-Belt #6838 was an acceptable replacement.  Per  belt specs, outside circumference was 38″ and outside circumference of my used belt was 40″, which made sense since my belt had stretched.  The width of the new belt was 0.5″ which corresponded to my belt.  My favorite auto store wanted $15.99 and WalMart advertised for $11.17.  I visited the local WalMart, where I buy my oil and filters, and discovered it does not carry belts.  The big internet retailer “A” offered the part for $11.17 (after tax $11.95) and I ordered using my prime account with delivery in 2 days.  My point is that a lot of manufacturers use standard parts.  If you buy the part using the manufacturers part # it will often cost more than if you can locate the standard part’s part #.  This may void the warranty but for me, with my old, old equipment this is not an issue.  And Gates is a well known belt manufacturer so the quality of the replacement is not an issue either.

The second situation was the remote car key was not working.  The car is 8 years old and I replaced the key just a couple years ago.  CR2016 is the battery #.  The local Publix carries watch batteries but was out.  The local Kroger doesn’t.  We are mid 90’s now in Georgia and this was getting frustrating.  I visited the local shoe repair store to have my favorite shoes repaired.  My better half said this was ridiculous, I should just buy a new pair.  And then a recent WSJ article 060315 said having good shoes repaired  was sound strategy.  So I felt good with this endorsement and while in the store noticed it had a watch repair section.  I asked the guy behind the counter if he carried this battery.  He found a battery and as to price said $10.  Noting my reaction, he said $10 was when he replaced the battery in a watch and for just the battery – $7.  Now I want to support the small guy but $7 is too much.  As I headed for the door he said $5.

So back to the big internet retailer “A”,  where some diligence was needed.  Lots of CR2016 battery suppliers but how many came in shrink wrapped, date stamped packs?  Apparently the life should be around 10 years and I figure the reason the last replacement faded after 2 years was it might have been old stock to start with.  (I did not check for a date when I purchased it).  So I ordered a Sony 20 piece, blister packed and apparently date stamped package, from a high rated supplier for $8.40 with 2 day delivery.   I would have been happy to pay $3 for a battery but $7 was being caught and I was not in the desert desperate for water.

the new battery, date stamped 2024! from a well known manufacturer!
the new battery, date stamped 2024! from a well known manufacturer!

At this point you may be saying – “much ado about nothing, what’s in a few dollars?”  So a snippet from last Saturday’s run at the river where we are training, sort of, for the July 4, 10k in Atlanta, which is the largest attended 10k in the world.  My buddy “Jack” a former engineer now retired, objected when I said there was minimal inflation today.  A few days earlier a new capacitor for the outside compressor unit of his a/c cost him $190.  I asked if that included the labor and Jack said with labor included, the cost was $350.  I mentioned I had replaced several caps on outdoor compressors and each one cost <$30.  To which Jack said they just got back from a trip, temps were in the 90’s and wife insisted on an immediate repair.  Which is fine but the price of caps has not increased, though the cost of an emergency repair may well have.  My point is, if you can make repairs safely (and this is a big IF) then watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.

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